Thursday, January 13, 2011

Taking Tea with the Dead

Sometimes I have to think about the future with one eye shut or else it gets too much for me. I used to think I’d be perfectly happy if a major publishing house offered me a book deal. But if that happened, I’d probably go comatose with panic. I’ve never tried to write anything longer than forty pages. If I did, I’d probably end up with a collection of essays on the mating habits of fruit and the decadent orgies that are fruit bowls. Then the offer would be rescinded and I'd die surrounded by grapefruit rinds and unread manuscripts. Possibly manuscript scribbled on grapefruit rind.

This is where I start getting a little teary and hysterical.

Pardon. Back from wiping eyes on hanky. Anyway. I read the blogs of up and coming authors, people who are standing exactly where I want to be, and they’re all nervous about their second book. Will it sell as well? I read the blogs of really famous authors and they worry about whether or not they’ll still be around ten years after their death. Will they be big names like Dickens or Austen?

Then I read a newspaper article about how Jane Austen has 89,000 facebook fans and the Bronte sisters collectively only have 9,000, and Elizabeth Gaskell, well, who’s heard of her anyway?

They’re dead and they’re still competing.

This is how I picture it going down in Heaven. Do not doubt that the dear ladies are in Heaven.

[the ladies are arrayed around a tea table]

Charlotte Bronte: I can’t believe you have 89,000 facebook fans. You! Your books have about as much passion as a dried haddock. You wouldn’t recognize a heaving bosom if it bit you on the nose.
Jane Austen: I’ve always found it strange that Charlotte is still in print. She writes half of her dialogue in French. Perhaps to disguise how overwrought it is?
Charlotte Bronte: Bitch! My dialogue is delicious and spicy like Caribbean chicken.
Elizabeth Gaskell: At least people know who you are. No one’s ever heard of me.

[Awkward silence]

Bronte: [hugging Gaskell] It has nothing to do with your talent.
Austen: Cranford is a gem.
Bronte: I don’t know how you managed that considering the lack of plot.
Austen: Charlotte!
Bronte: It’s a book about old ladies who sit around drinking tea.
Gaskell: I like old ladies.
Bronte: Yes darling, but most people prefer man hunks.
Austen: [Brightly] I enjoyed Wives and Daughters even though it’s 700 pages long. It such a shame that you um,
Bronte: Died.
Austen: Expired, before you could tie up the plot.
Bronte: That was a serious marketing mistake.

[Awkward silence part deux. Gaskell dabs at her eyes with her handkerchief.]

Austen: North and South is doing quite well though. I quite enjoyed Mr. Thornton. He’s fetching.
Bronte: But vanilla.
Austen: Elizabeth, don’t mind her. Charlotte prefers it if her men are cross dressing bigamists.
Bronte: [dreamily] That passage about Mr. Thornton watching Margaret’s wrists is phenomenally sexy. I shivered when I read it. I had no idea wrists could be so delicious. [Examines her own wrists]. Eliza, do you think I have attractive wrists?
Austen: Charlotte. Control yourself. Keep the inside your head thoughts, inside your head.
Bronte: Your need a good—
Austen: Pardon?
Bronte: Sorry. I have trouble with the concept of inside my head thoughts.

[Austen takes several deep calming breathes.]

Austen: It’s really a work to be proud of, Eliza. The love story is spine tingling, and your examination of the industrial revolution’s impact on, let’s see… the aristocracy, the church gentry, the factory workers, the factory owners, the peasants… is, uh, through.
Bronte: The only person she left out was God.
Austen: It does get a wee bit long. The problem is—
Bronte: The industrial revolution is over. No one cares anymore. Ow. Don’t pinch me Jane.
Austen: Consider what I chose to write about—marrying for money, falling in love with unsuitable gentlemen, dreadful mothers. Timeless themes.
Bronte: [staring up at the ceiling] God, tell me she had no friends as a child. Please.
Austen:  People will even read Charlotte because it’s like watching a carriage crash. Cross dressing bigamists. Lunatic wives. Arson. You can’t look away although it’s appalling.
Bronte: [under her breathe] She definitely had no friends.

[Gaskell looks like she’s been bludgeoned by a tea kettle.]

Bronte: Oh Eliza, don’t look like that. Come, let’s get some crumpets. My treat.

[Exeunt chased by a bear for crumpets.]

Tea with the ladies


  1. "Elizabeth, don’t mind her. Charlotte prefers it if her men are cross dressing bigamists." Bahaha! Love it!

  2. Awww...cute dolls! I like animal stuff so much... I'm so happy to see that you do too.. hahahaha...

  3. Man, that Jane Austen broad sure is bitchy. I guess 89,000 fans will do that.

    I'm surprised the ladies even know what a Facebook fan is! I imagine before this conversation took place, they had a lengthy chat on the concept:

    Bronte: "But, but, what are Facebook fans, Jane? Do you think they have turned themselves into those devices? Oh, these youths are truly more complex than my novel."

    (I admit I've never heard of Gaskell)

  4. @amandavanoffman

    Ya know, I gotta seriously question whatever went on in her head. The lady was mad! Freakin' mad, but so gloriously mad it took me a really long time to notice the sheer lunacy of Jane Eyre.

    I adore. Absolutely. Maybe it's part of my Asian heritage? I remember wandering around Jakarta shopping malls and spazzing out every five seconds because there were so many shops selling cute things!

    I'd think so. Even if she started out modest there's no way her soul in the afterlife could remain so. Not with this kind of success.

    I'm sure the ladies like to keep afloat on the current trends, even if they're a little scandalized by fashions. Tank-tops! Oh my!

    Austen: Charlotte, you mustn't be so hopelessly behind the times. A good deal of maintaining one's presence is society has to do with chirping. I chirp all the time on my ah, ah, raspberry.

    (Gaskell is delicious. I honestly like her better than Austen. Possibly because I've read and reread all Austen to shreds, then watched and rewatched the movies and then chomped through ripoffs: P&P set in the civil war, P&P thinly disguised as Bridget Jones, etc.

    On the other hand, I spent six months talking up North and South to a friend, and when friend finally read it she was ready to flay me.

    "You made me sit through THAT?"

    Said friend is a philistine and has no taste. *ahem*

    I mean everyone is entitled to their opinion.)

  5. This post is fabulous, I love it! Very creative and hilarious-- keep it up this is wonderful!

  6. @treesandink

    Thank you! You made my day. :)

  7. Owl, I trust that your opinion is far superior than said friend's who could not enjoy a book that's better than all of Jane Austen's offerings.

    How dare she offer such an audacious thought!

  8. @W

    There were some erm, heated words exchanged.

  9. Loved! Much better than going to bed like I'm supposed to be doing. (Or rather, having done 5 hours ago...)

  10. This is me, Valerie, as I do not have a blog on here, but I just had to say that this made me laugh so so much. I really need to frequent this blog more often!! I just read The Professor and Vilette recently so the line about Charlotte Bronte's dialogue being half in French was so perfect and so so true. I spent half the book flipping back to the end to see what it all meant!