It’s been clear for a while now that Jane Austen has evolved from revered writer into lifestyle brand: FamousJane, bringing you Classy Romance With A Dollop of Smarts since 1811. In case any of us were still wondering how fully that evolution had progressed, however, last week’s tidbits of Austen news (at least the non-Sanditon-related ones) should make everything clear: * We already knew about the Austen-themed soap, toothpaste, lip balm, body lotion, and perfume. (Because nothing says “pioneer of the novel” like scented hygiene products.) So the latest entrant in this crowded category -- Jane Austen fingernail polish – fits right in. The new Jane Austen Collection, from a company with the unintentionally hilarious name of Live Love Polish, includes six different sparkly, shimmery shades with Austenesque monikers. Sense and Sensibility is a deep purple that morphs into a lighter purple and then into beige, depending on the temperature. My Dear Cassandra is a semi-restrained bluish-gray. First Impressions, according to the companion video, is another temperature-sensitive polish that incorporates “subtle holographic micro-flakes.” I don’t know about you, but “subtle holographic micro-flakes” is not a phrase that immediately leaps to mind when I think of Jane Austen. But in the world of Lifestyle Brand Jane, any actual connection between the writer and the product is beside the point. * Hot on the heels of news about Ivanka Trump’s Austen appreciation comes word that another leggy blonde with a social media following may also be an Austen reader: Gwyneth Paltrow’s book curator mentions Our Jane among the always-popular classics his clients are interested in having on their shelves. Yes, I know: I too missed the memo about how “book curator” is an actual job you can get paid for. But enough of this mourning over roads not taken. Back to Town & Country’s recent interview with “a long-time bibliophile and collector” by the almost impossibly WASP-y name of Thatcher Wine who “sourc[es] rare, out-of-print books to build beautiful libraries based on interest, author, and even color for his clients,” Paltrow among them. Wine’s company, Juniper Books, creates custom book jackets so that you can coordinate the spines of your books with the décor of your home. “Someone can have the complete works of Jane Austen, but in a certain Pantone chip color that matches the rest of the room,” he explains. (Personally, I find the hodgepodge of uncoordinated spines, and the vast diversity of human imagination that this hodgepodge represents, to be one of the joys of a personal library. But, then, I’m willing to bet I’m not the kind of person Wine works for.) Wine doesn’t say in so many words that Austen’s works were among the “five or six hundred” (!) books that he acquired for Paltrow when she moved into a remodeled home in Los Angeles a few years ago and realized that her bookshelves just weren’t full enough. (This is not a problem I’ve faced anywhere I’ve ever lived.) But he does say that among his curatorial choices was “a selection of classics” that the Paltrow kids might enjoy as they grew up, and given that their mother starred in a famous film version of Emma way back when, I think it’s a safe bet that Austen made the cut. And so there you have it: Jane Austen, approved (probably) by the founder of Goop. If that’s not a sign that Austen's brand has arrived, I don’t know what is.
Aug 26 2019 06:06PM by A. Marie
Bless you, Deborah. I laughed straight through this whole post--on a day when I sorely needed the laughter. Decorating with books seems to be a thing right now, if the post on the topic that my local thrift store chain just put up on its blog is any indication. On the other hand, the chain may simply be so swamped with Marie Kondo-inspired book discards that it'll say anything to get rid of some of the donations. And on an unrelated subject, the reports trickling in from correspondents across the pond on the first episode of the Andrew Davies Sanditon are confirming my predictions.
Sep 5 2019 08:35PM by Deborah Yaffe
I suppose it's inevitable that, as we turn to ebooks, the physical objects should be valued more for their covers than their contents! (Except by people like my husband, who avoids ebooks on principle. . .) As for Sanditon: yes, I fear your pessimism may be vindicated, though I'm still reserving judgment till I can see for myself.
Aug 26 2019 07:04PM by Laurel A. Nattress
One wonders out loud why a book curator is needed when a new cover obliterates the title and author? Those visiting Paltrow's library would only see books used as a building block for an art installment.
Sep 5 2019 08:37PM by Deborah Yaffe
Yeah, it's a good point, Laurel Ann! I suppose we can hope that the little Paltrows (or, actually, little Martins, I guess) are occasionally cracking open one of the objets d'art. . .