I hate the thought of Anne Hathaway starring as Jane Austen in a movie about Jane Austen. Hathaway was too insipid even for the intrinsic insipidness of The Devil Wears Prada. I can’t even imagine that she’ll do justice to the Empire-waist fashion, much less the great authoress herself.
And now I suppose we’ll see Hathaway’s doe eyes and pouty lips on all future editions of Jane Austen novels. Publishers apparently are already touching up images of Austen, tarting poor old Jane up like the media whore they want her to be.
Verlyn Klinkenborg (with a name like that, she had to be a writer! Go, Veryln!) poses the sensible question in a New York Times op-ed piece: Why should we care what Jane Austen looked like? As Verlyn says, “No amount of biography — no grasp of the details of the life as it was lived — ever accounts for the transfiguration that takes place in the work itself. You can search all you want in the life, but you will never find the ghostly separateness, the act of imagination, in which the work emerges.” Maybe it’s a good thing few letters and no diaries of Austen’s survive; her work truly must stand on its own, independent of a possible dumpy physique or bad temper or unfortunate habit like nail-biting.
I liked what Verlyn had to say about reading, too:
One of the great pleasures of a reading life is picking up an old, familiar novel thinking that rereading it will mean a kind of reminding, when, in fact, the novel makes itself new all over again. It is as if the novel holds itself apart, waiting for real life to erase enough in us to make us suitable readers once more.
I think that’s exactly why I have a hard time letting go of my books.