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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Keeping up with the Janeites

I don’t speak Kardashian. I have trouble distinguishing among the K-named females of the clan, disentangling the one who married Kanye West from the one whose jewels were stolen in Paris from the one who divorced about ten minutes after staging a nationally televised wedding. (What? That’s all the same one? Seriously?)

Now, however, I finally know something useful about at least one of the Weird Sisters: Kourtney Kardashian, it seems, is an Austen reader.

Or so the eldest Kardashian invited us to presume last week, when she posted an Instagram photo of herself, clad in a white Oxford shirt with the sleeves rolled up, dangling her bare feet out of an empty bathtub while reading a green hardback of Emma.

Admittedly, the focus of the shot is not the book but the crystalline white orb perched on the corner of the tub – the Kourtney-designed Positively Poosh essential-oil diffuser, which goes on sale today. “Diffusing has become a part of my daily wellness routine,” Kardashian explains in the accompanying caption.

The post quickly amassed more than 700,000 likes and countless comments, a fair number of which evince a rather creepy obsession with the soles of the Kardashian feet. But it isn’t all slavish adoration: “YOU KNOW DAMN WELL YOU AIN’T READING NO BOOK!” one skeptic exclaimed.

This strikes me as unkind. Can it be coincidence that Kardashian is posing with the Austen novel featuring the heroine most likely to discuss everyone else’s love life on reality TV while promoting clothing lines and skincare products? Obviously, someone read the book.

Mostly, though, the Kardashian post provides more fodder for every Janeite’s favorite game: What Would Jane Do With This Material? It’s not hard to imagine a twenty-first-century Austen, finally granted the health and strength to complete Sanditon, finding room in her fictional seaside resort for a trio of self-absorbed socialites who can’t stop prattling about -- and, not incidentally, monetizing -- the latest dubious “wellness” fad. Come to think of it, she would probably have had them say things like “Diffusing has become a part of my daily wellness routine.”

Austen, I’ll bet, would have spoken fluent Kardashian. What a tragedy that she died two centuries too early to learn it.


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