Friday, March 23, 2007

The horror!

From the Times:
Having been depicted as a romantic heroine in the film Becoming Jane, Britain’s best-loved author has been given a makeover by a publisher.
According to Wordsworth Editions, which sells millions of cut-price classic novels, the only authentic portrait of Jane Austen is too unattractive.
Helen Trayler, its managing director, said: “The poor old thing didn’t have anything going for her in the way of looks. Her original portrait is very, very dowdy. It wouldn’t be appealing to readers, so I took it upon myself to commission a new picture of her.
“We’ve given her a bit of a makeover, with make-up and some hair extensions and removed her nightcap. Now she looks great — as if she’s just walked out of a salon.”
[Dixit Zadok: The mind boggles.]
The only contemporary portrait of Austen is a sour-faced sketch by her sister Cassandra that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. But the author’s friends and family described her as “very attractive” and “like a doll”, and a niece, Anna, said that Cassandra’s depiction of Jane was “hideously unlike” her.
A Victorian engraving made from that picture formed the basis for the new watercolour, which will appear on the cover of a “deluxe” collection of her works, to appear in September.
Where aesthetics allow, the publisher prefers to use an image of the author on the front cover. Joseph Conrad, Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde all made the grade, but other literary titans may now be in line for airbrushing.
Ms Trayler said: “Virginia Woolf wasn’t much of a looker. I’m also considering making over George Eliot, who was frumpy, and William Wordsworth, who was pretty hideous. Most poets were really unattractive, with the one exception being Tennyson, who has wonderful bone structure.”
Patrick Janson-Smith, a leading literary agent, said: “Portraits of modern authors are airbrushed the whole time, especially American lady authors of a certain age. It’s a shock to meet a writer when the reality falls a little short. We live in a shallow world where authors are increasingly sold on their appearance.”
Curiously, of the Austen siblings, Jane is the only one for whom there is no surviving professional portrait.
And also from the Times:
TV is to turn Pride and Prejudice into a time-travel saga. The broadcaster wants to emulate the success of the BBC One series Life on Mars, in which a detective is catapulted back in time, and build on the triumph of a run of Jane Austen adaptations, featuring stars such as Billie Piper.
In Lost in Austen, Amanda, a chardonnay-swigging West London girl, discovers a bonnet-wearing woman in her bathroom who introduces herself as Elizabeth Bennet. Through a series of accidents, Amanda is transported to Regency England, where she melts before Mr Darcy’s brooding glare. Miss Bennet, meanwhile, breathes life into the modern girl’s useless boyfriend.


Argent said...

The poor old thing didn't have anything going for her in the ways of looks... Aaaaaaah, leave Jane alone, you hussy!

Lost in Austen... now I imagine them sitting round painting screens and reading Fordyce's sermons...that would be a great travel in time.

Tom said...

"Authors as a class are no oil-paintings. You have only to go to one of those literary dinners to test the truth of this. At such a binge you will see tall authors, short authors, stout authors, thin authors and authors of medium height and girth, but all of these authors without exception look like something that would be passed over with a disdainful jerk of the beak by the least fastidious buzzard in the Gobi desert."

-- P. G. Wodehouse

Boeciana said...

D'you think the Times is using some random Eastern calendar where it's 1st April?

JaneC said...

Lost in Austen? Good heavens. And, seriously Billie Piper? I didn't like her at all in Dr. Who, and she always looks childishly petulant in photos (when she manages to actually close her mouth all the way).

romaryka said...

can't (won't) speak to the austen re-portraiture, but "lost in austen" sounds suspiciously like jasper fforde's _the eyre affair_, which i found to be actually a lovely rollicking adventure of a book. :)

Banshee said...

Actually, Lost in Austen sounds exactly like the plot of 90% of the fanfics written for literary universes. The characters are almost always joined by modern readers or brought forward to modern situations, because it's fun to write.

But it's a lot more fun if people actually know something about past times....