Maureen O'Dowd: No friend to Jane nor to AustenBlog


We’ve received a couple dozen (well, maybe not THAT many, but lots) of e-mails about this article, and we shrink a bit, knowing that (as we told one correspondent) politics/religion is the third rail of the Austen fandom. We don’t like it when any group claims Jane as their own, or compares “their” candidate to one of her characters, because part of the genius of Jane Austen, in our opinion, is that she appeals to such a diverse group of people. We have, in our personal Janeite acquaintance, deeply religious people of many faiths, atheists, agnostics, liberals, conservatives, and centrists disgusted with/bored by all of them; unfortunately, when you get into these subjects, normally reasonable individuals go ballistic and the very IDEA that someone else might have different opinions from them (maybe that’s why Jane Austen avoided those subjects herself), so generally, we wimp out and just ignore that type of article. But then Maureen Ferrarsing O’Dowd had to go and bring up Jane Austen in the New York Ferrarsing Times and we can’t very well ignore it. It’s made us a bit cranky and perhaps this post should be viewed under that caveat. πŸ˜‰

So there it is, go read it if you want. We just wonder why Ms. O’Dowd HAAAAD to use Darcy for her comparison. A P&P comparison is cheap, and easy, and obvious; it’s a kind of cultural shorthand for those who don’t have much culture, and it’s not like it’s really well-done, either. For instance, regard:

“The odd thing is that Obama bears a distinct resemblance to the most cherished hero in chick-lit history.”

Is Ms. O’Dowd suggesting that Senator Obama’s supporters are swooning over him like they swoon over the wet-shirt edition of Darcy, the sex god who launched a thousand smutty fanfics? That’s not really doing the candidate she supposedly is defending much of a service, in our opinion.

Why not compare Senator Obama to Mr. Knightley, a man of good principles who is concerned about helping the disadvantaged? Why not Edmund Bertram, a deeply religious fellow who, perhaps, concerns himself more than he should in his fellow man’s morality? Why not Captain Wentworth, a self-made success who is much admired by the general public? Because the P&P comparison is cheap and easy (unlike the Editrix). Like we said, Jane Austen’s work is much more universal than she might appear at first glance, or viewed through an individual’s personal filters; and she shouldn’t be co-opted by any particular interest group in our opinion, because it’s not playing fair.

Despite our ranting, thanks to Alert Janeites Julie T., Liz, Anna, “pink-panther3”, Laurie, and Laura for sending in the link. πŸ™‚