Let us know how that works out for you


Alert Janeites Laurel Ann and Karenlee sent us a link to a new Austen-related blog, Bitch in a Bonnet. The stated purpose of the blog, from the first post:

How did someone whose vision is so darkly, even bleakly, comic—whose work brims with vicious, gabbling grotesques, most of whom are never adequately (or even minimally) punished for their sins (as Dickens, not so many years later, felt compelled to punish his)—become the patron saint of the turgid, chest-heaving, emotionally pornographic genre called “Regency Romance”?

I don’t know, and I don’t care. I only care to stop it—to fire the opening salvo that will, I hope, ignite the barrage of indignation that brings this travesty to a halt and restores, once and for all, the spit and vinegar to Jane Austen’s public profile, raising her to the pantheon of gadflies that she might take her place beside Voltaire and Swift, Twain and Mencken. My goal is to make the world acknowledge, at long last, the bitch in the bonnet.

Well, we’ve been trying to do that for five years now. What we’ve discovered is that most of the people who actually read Jane Austen know this already. The people who don’t read her work, yet feel compelled to share their idiocy commentary, tend to get their information from the popular culture zeitgeist. Now, the media likes their soundbytes, and if the soundbytes say Jane Austen is a sweet spinster auntie then by gum she is a sweet spinster auntie, and there’s nothing snarky bloggers with Cluebats can do about it but take a metaphorical swing at their overinflated heads and rage at the darkness. But you go to it, sonny, and let us know how it works out for you, mmkay?

And just in case you have any bright ideas about appropriating our schtick, the Cluebat of Janeite Righteousness belongs to us. It even has our name on it. See?

Cluebat of Janeite Righteousness

P.S. No ripping on Georgette Heyer, either. She was a bitch in a very expensive and exquisitely tasteful pillbox hat.

25 thoughts on “Let us know how that works out for you

  1. Sandra_in_the_US

    Oh, just what Jane and we needed! A man to come riding to the rescue. And not just any man, but one who fancies himself a colleague of hers. I despair, I really do.

    Not that men can’t appreciate Austen. Many can and demonstrably do. But the idea that this fellow thinks to reclaim for her the spot in the canon he believe that she lacks is just…..dopey. Miss Austen is just fine on her own, son. Move along, there’s nothing to see here.


  2. Fine-eyed Elizabeth

    I’m happy to wait and see what Mr. BiaB can come up with. Perhaps he’ll stumble upon some secret formula for making the ignorami less … uh … well, right, then. I wish him good luck, though, and I agree with Reeba–in this case more can only be better. Hollywood is a pretty high fortress wall to try to batter down, especially without a cluebat.


  3. Sandra_in_the_US

    @Karenlee–I began reading his explanation of his purpose, which The Editrix has linked above. The conceit of “I’m a writer so I know better than all these poor unwashed romance novel readers” just set me off. Fair do, I spend a lot of time with academics and my bloviation-tolerance is extremely low, so I stopped as I felt my blood pressure rising. My thoughts are as follows:

    1. Anybody who has read Austen knows that her novels are of a different form than romance novels.

    2. There isn’t actually anything wrong with romance novels. They aren’t everyone’s cup of tea and the quality of writing varies considerably, but they are a perfectly legitimate genre in their own right.

    3. The people he wants to beat sense into Do. Not. Care. If they did, they wouldn’t be willfully ignorant of the nature of Austen’s work.

    I do spend a lot of time reading and a lot of time reading stuff on the web. But even so, I have to make choices about how spend my time and he’s had his allotment. Very likely other people will respond differently, which is fine


  4. Maria L.

    Well, there’s enough room on the playground, no? (But I’d watch the chick with the Cluebat because she’s got one heck of a swing :))

    I imagine for many of us here, he’s preaching to the choir.


  5. Reeba

    You say;
    >I spend a lot of time with academics and my bloviation-tolerance is extremely low,

    I have highlighted in bold the main bloviated… ooops…part that tickled me. 😉
    I mean no harm. Just couldn’t resist. 🙂

    I stand accused along with the blogger for having similar sentiments regarding ‘romance novels’ (no matter how good they are), touted as the genre of JA novels.


  6. Frankly I agree with most of you. I think Miss Austen is not a damsel who must be defended through the ‘bitch’ word and more because we are defending her name through years (I am part of that baseball equipment, although I don’t like baseball ;)). I don’t like those silly novels too, because life is very short and we should read and enjoy books full of substance like real Jane Austen and not things that suck like zombies, vampires or heroes of naked chests :D.
    Although I understand that the academics at rescuing can be totally a boring theme, and you don’t need to be academic to understand and appreciate Miss Austen.
    Maybe I’m sick of people who just think they’re the only to get the intellectual jokes that most of people don’t get, as much of low quality books or films 😉


  7. Reeba

    Yes, I certainly don’t feel happy calling JA a ‘bitch in a bonnet’ but as I understand (that’s why I didn’t comment on it), the word ‘bitch’ has taken on a totally new dimension and meaning (at least in the US). I could be wrong :-/


  8. Mags

    Reeba, I wouldn’t say it’s taken on a new meaning, but I think the way he means it is as an opposite to “sweet spinster auntie accidentally creating works of immortal genius.” He’s going for shock value, too, I think.

    But I do find it amusing that he thinks he’s the Sole Guardian of the Truth About Jane Austen and condescending, Lady Catherine-like, to share it with the rest of us plebes. As I said in my post, he’s really not saying anything we didn’t already know around here. Also, I’m less than impressed with his analysis of S&S.

    There’s nothing remotely attractive about (Elinor Dashwood) except her reliability and her faultless good manners

    What? She has brains and a great sense of humor. She loves Marianne enough to apply the necessary social lubricants to which her silly sister refuses to lower herself. It’s hard to blunder through life like a bull in a china shop, offending everyone as you go, and Elinor knows this and tries to cover up for Marianne’s weaknesses.

    I pretty much agree with everything Sandra has written in these comments, by the bye.

    Edited because: I can has grammar now?


  9. Perhaps BiaB is thinking of Barbara Cartland. If he had ever really read any of Georgette Heyer’s works such as An Infamous Army he would see the error in his statement.


  10. Sandra_in_the_US

    Reeba, I’m not sure I understand exactly what you’re getting at there. Did that bit sound pretentious? It wasn’t meant to. My work brings me into close contact with academics most days of the week and nobody pontificates like someone used to standing in front of a captive audience. It wears thin after a while. They aren’t all like that, of course, but many are.

    Regarding the word “bitch”; it makes me jumping up and down crazy to hear that term applied to an intelligent, independent, sharp-witted (and perhaps sharp-tongued) woman of any era. It is not a synonym for feisty or irrepressible or any other humorous and affectionate term. It is extremely derogatory. And this is not because I’m an uptight middle-aged feminist hag (though I likely am) who lacks a sense of humor about it. An analogous term would seldom if ever be applied to a male with those characteristics. It’s meant to keep a woman in her place and while I’m well aware that it was likely chosen because it’s “punchy” and alliterative and allegedly hip, it really, really hacks me off. Austen deserves a great deal more respect


  11. Mags

    Mags, just for that, I’m going to send Chase Utley round to yours to express my appreciation.

    *swoooooon* My fake boyfriend Chase Utley! The Anti-Vick. *grumbles*


  12. I smell a turf war. When I happened upon ‘Bitch in a Bonnet’ blog, my first reaction was – whaaat? The word bitch and Jane Austen are just polar opposites to me. Like Sandra mentioned, it is an “extremely derogatory term,” neither humorous nor witty, which Jane was.

    Regarding restoring “once and for all, the spit and vinegar to Jane Austen’s public profile,” excuse me sir,in my estimatation, and many others, Austen’s public profile never sank, and “raising her to the pantheon of gadflies that she might take her place beside Voltaire and Swift, Twain and Mencken,” Voltaire a gadfly? and, I am quite certain that Twain would not want to share any pedestal space in THAT pantheon with anyone but himself.

    Furthermore, just because Andrew Davies sexed up Austen, doesn’t mean everyone is buying it.I say you are quite late to the frey Mr. anti-Regency Romance boy who has obviously been living the the musty stacks at the Bodleian Library for the last five years and not on the Internet. There are far more humorous and eloqently advesaries defending Jane’s honor, and they carry big sticks.


  13. Maria L.

    Personally, I think trying to turn Austen into a “bitch in a bonnet” is just as ludicrous as believing that she was a “sweet spinster auntie.” I never did get the whole pigeonholing Jane thing. Why must she be characterized at either extreme? Even a cursory reading of her surviving correspondence makes it abundantly clear that this lady was not one-dimensional. It’s hardly surprising that her novels aren’t either. A thoughtful reader will quickly find that Austen’s work transcends attempts to turn her into a cliché or to slap her with some gimmicky label.

    I suppose what rankles is what Mags has already identified as a case of de Burghitis on the part of Mr. “B in a B”. You can’t exactly “fire the opening salvo” when you are a new recruit in a war that has been going on for quite some time. And it’s always a good idea to salute the general, especially one who is well-armed and has got some “spit and vinegar” of her own…

    That being said, I find Elinor Dashwood far more interesting than that willful wild child Marianne. But then, that’s another topic!


  14. Reeba

    >Reeba, I’m not sure I understand exactly what you’re getting at there. Did that bit sound pretentious? It wasn’t meant to

    Yes it did. 🙂
    But as I said, I may be wrong in my understanding of various things. A lot of terms are being used of which I have no idea what they mean. Especially the American terms.

    But no worries.
    You have a lot of support for your views 😀

    I hold mine – that anyone who is fighting for the cause has my blessings.
    I acknowledge the leader in this of course!! 🙂

    Hmmm. I didn’t read the write up on S&S though. He said that about Elinor???!!!
    Perhaps he should stick to defending instead of analyzing.


  15. Sandra

    >>Reeba, I’m not sure I understand exactly what you’re getting at there. Did that bit sound pretentious? It wasn’t meant to

    Yes it did. 🙂
    But as I said, I may be wrong in my understanding of various things. A lot of terms are being used of which I have no idea what they mean. Especially the American terms.<<

    No, thanks for calling me on it. Pretention is, after all, the gravest sin*

    I just meant that I hear that kind of crap all the time and I have very little tolerance for it any more. But it is very easy to fall into that mode.

    *One for all you Dan Jenkins fans out there. I hope I'm not the only one. 🙂


  16. Karenlee

    Oh, I dunno’. I think some people might be taking some of the thing’s he’s saying a bit too [i]seriously[/i].

    I don’t think his focus/conceit, whatever, is “I’m a writer so I know better than all these poor unwashed romance novel readers”. It is more that for many people today (and you have to admit this is true), Jane Austen HAS been “reduced to a marketing brand, her literature retooled as product, her genius reconfigured as kitsch”. And I think he positions himself as ‘a colleague’ quite humbly.

    IMO, the ‘Bitch in a Bonnet’ title and approach is indeed a purposeful positioning to create something of a shock effect. And what I’m increasingly realizing after reading his take on S&S chapters 5-10 (and perhaps what some people here may not realize in their indignation?), is that aside from wanting to point out the sharper, more barbed aspects of Jane’s genius, the project is equally a gleeful (but, I believe, affectionate) exercise in satire itself:

    “Willoughy makes his debut by rescuing Marianne from a windswept hillside where she’s taken a tumble while exulting in the rough weather. Poor Marianne; she’s a would-be Bacchante, but lacks the motor skills for cavorting in a tempest.”

    C’mon – we’re appreciators of ironic snark here, aren’t we? I think that’s FUNNY! His milquetoast description of Elinor is laid on thick, just to be able to make the comparison, “but she’s a feral, howling she-wolf next to Fanny Price” – which also cracked me up to no end. P&P&Zombies is a travesty of all that is Austen, but even I am able to giggle at the thought of Mr Bennett shouting, “Girls! Pentagram of Death!”.

    C’mon – loosen up! I’m not reading Rodi’s blog for illumination or elucidation about Austen’s writing, but pure amusement. I think he’s trying to provide both in equal measure; the former for the ‘dull elves’ who think she’s nothing but Boones Hill anno 1880, and the latter for those who are already better informed. You can tell from what he’s writing that he IS a thoughtful, perceptive (and appreciative) Austen reader:

    “Sir John’s wife, by contrast, is a cold fish, though she too stops short of actual monstrosity; she’s just too inert. Her mother, Mrs. Jennings, is nearer the mark; a “good-humored, merry, fat, elderly woman, who talked a great deal,” she relentlessly teases the Dashwood girls “on the subject of lovers and husbands” and “pretended to see them blush whether they did or not.” In 21st Century terms, she’s the equivalent to the overly tanned, henna-haired grandmothers who mortify adolescents by making wild remarks about their developing breasts and asking earnest questions about their periods. But even she isn’t a grotesque; she’s too sociable, too generous of spirit.”

    Mrs Jennings IS a fat, meddlesome, short-sighted and rather vulgar woman. But she’s no Fanny Dashwood or Lady Catherine or Caroline Bingley. Her faults are offset and she IS – as a character – redeemed from being relegated to their level of contemptibleness by her ‘generosity of spirit’. Any man who is capable of recognizing that in her character, and describing the whole so deliciously, is worth reading. A grain of salt ladies… just take him with a big grain of salt.


  17. Thanks, Karenlee, for going to Mr. BiaB’s defense. I have been meaning to say something similar here, but you have said it better than I would have, and saved me some time!

    I am enjoying the blog posts because he so clearly admires the comic genius that is Austen. And surely we can all get behind that.


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