The Greatest Book of Our Time

Renée Zellweger in Bridget Jones’s Diary (Sharon Maguire, 2001)

 
 

BRIDGET:L-ladies and…
L–
Oi!
Oi!
Sorry. The, uh…
mic’s not… work–working. Ahem.
Ladies andgentlemen…
welcome to the launch of “Kafka’s Motorbike”…
“The Greatest Book of OurTime.”
[Mild applause]
Obviously exceptfor your books, Mr. Rushdie…
which are also very good.
And Lord Archer…
yours aren’tbad, either.
[Clears throat] Anyway…
uh, what I mean is, uh…
welcome, ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you for coming to the launch of…
one of the top thirty books of ourtime.
Anyway, at least.
And here to introduce it is the man we all call…Titspervert.
Titspervert….Fitzherbert, because that…is his name.

 
 

When Helen Fielding wrote the novel Bridget Jones’s Diary, she based the character of Mark Darcy on Colin Firth‘s depiction of Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (Simon Langton, 1995). In addition to the inside-joke casting of Colin Firth as Mark Darcy, there are several other allusions to Jane Austen‘s story: Mark disparages Bridget to his mother within earshot of Bridget. In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy disparages Elizabeth to his friend Mr. Bingley within earshot of Elizabeth. Daniel Cleaver lies to Bridget about a dispute between him and Mark, claiming Mark stole his fiancée; in fact, it was the other way around. In Pride and Prejudice, it’s a dispute between Mr. Wickham and Mr. Darcy, and Wickham lies about who’s at fault. The Darcy in both stories fails to disabuse the heroine’s misinformed notion until it’s almost too late. Bridget works at Pemberley Press; Mr. Darcy lives at Pemberley estate. Crispin Bonham-Carter was in both productions (his scenes were cut out of the film, although he can still be seen in the job-quitting scene and can also be seen at the Kafka book launch where Bridget asks Salman Rushdie where the toilets are – he is seen as the man on the left in the conversation). When Bridget stops at a mall to see her mother, she begins the scene by saying (in a voice over) that, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that as soon as one part of your life starts looking up, another part falls to pieces.” This is an update of the famous opening lines of Pride and Prejudice: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

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Illustrated Masterpiece of Pastiche

 
 

Kafka’s Soup is a literary pastiche in the form of a cookbook. It contains 14 recipes each written in the style of a famous author from history. As of 2007 it had been translated into 18 languages and published in 27 countries. Excerpts from the book have appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and the New York Times. Theatrical performances of the recipes have taken place in France and Canada. Kafka’s Soup is Mark Crick‘s first book. He has subsequently written two other books with similar themes; Sartre’s Sink and Machiavelli’s Lawn which are literary pastiches in the form of a DIY handbook and a gardening book respectively. Anybody who prefers their recipes to be a simple list of foolproof instructions should stay away.

Recipes include: tiramisu as made by Marcel Proust, cheese on toast by Harold Pinter, clafoutis grandmere by Virginia Woolf, chocolate cake prepared by Irvine Welsh, lamb with dill sauce by Raymond Chandler, onion tart by Geoffrey Chaucer, fenkata (rabbit stew) by Homer, boned stuffed poussins by the Marquis de Sade, mushroom risotto by John Steinbeck, tarragon eggs by Jane Austen, Vietnamese chicken by Graham Greene and Franz Kafka‘s Miso soup. Also included are recipes in the style of Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Márquez.

Among the recipes that did not make the original edition of the book was “plum pudding à la Charles Dickens” which was written but rejected by Mark Crick for being “too long-winded”. It was, however, included in a subsequent paperback edition of the book along with two recipes, Rösti à la Thomas Mann and moules marinieres à la Italo Calvino, originally created for the German and Italian translations respectively.

Kafka’s Soup has become a cult hit. Andy Miller of The Telegraph called the recipes “note-perfect parodies of literary greats”. Emily Stokes of The Observer called it an “illustrated masterpiece of pastiche” citing the lamb with dill sauce as “particularly good”. C J Schüler wrote that Virginia Woolf’s clafoutis grandmere is the “pièce de resistance” and called the collection “irresistibly moreish”. He later called the book “a little gem of literary impersonation”. Schüler believes that “part of the book’s appeal lies in the fact that the recipes…actually work.”

 
 

 
 

Kafka’s Soup is illustrated with paintings by the author in the style of a number of famous artists including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, William Hogarth, Giorgio De Chirico, Henry Moore, Egon Schiele and Andy Warhol.

The idea for Kafka’s Soup arose during a conversation between Crick and a publisher. Crick noted his dislike for cookbooks saying that he enjoyed looking at the pictures but found the accompanying text dull. When asked what would it take for him to read beyond the ingredients list he replied “if [the text] was written by the world’s greatest authors.” The publisher liked the idea and, in Crick’s words, “she said that if I wrote it she’d publish it.”

Most of the recipes in the book are Crick’s own, although some, such as the chocolate cake, came from his friends. Crick notes the implausibility of some of his authors cooking their stated dishes (for example he states that John Steinbeck “would never have eaten [mushroom risotto]” and “I certainly accept any challenge that Kafka would not have eaten miso soup”). He says that he selected the recipes based on the ability of each dish to allow him to use the language he wished to use. Chocolate cake was selected for Irvine Welsh because “people become terribly selfish when there’s chocolate cake around, just as they do with drugs. It’s the closest many get to taking heroin.”

Crick says that he found Virginia Woolf the most difficult of the authors to write while Raymond Chandler was the easiest.

Primness and Feminine Outlook

Title page of the 1909 edition of Emma, illustrated by C. E. Brock.

 
 

“I planned the match from that hour” ~ Volume I, Chapter I

 
 

“As she was so fond of it, it should be called her cow” ~ Volume I, Chapter IV

 
 

Frequently coming to look ~ Volume I, Chapter VI

 
 

He was very sure there must be a lady in the case ~ Volume I, Chapter VIII

 
 

“You and I will have a nice basin of gruel together” ~ Volume I, Chapter XII

 
 

She left the sofa ~ Volume I, Chapter XV

 
 

“Ma’am…do you hear what Miss Woodhouse is so obliging to say about Jane’s handwriting?” ~ Volume II, Chapter I

 
 

“He thought I had much better go round by Mr. Cole’s stables” ~ Volume II, Chapter III

 
 

He stopt…to look in ~ Volume II, Chapter VI

 
 

Very busy over parish business ~ Volume II, Chapter VIII

 
 

“I have the pleasure, madam, (to Mrs. Bates,) of restoring your spectacles, healed for the present.” ~ Volume II, Chapter X

 
 

“Ah! he is off. He never can bear to be thanked” ~ Volume II, Chapter X

 
 

What was to be done? ~ Volume II, Chapter XI

 
 

“Half an hour shut up with my housekeeper” ~ Volume II, Chapter XIV

 
 

“I see very few pearls in the room except mine” ~ Volume III, Chapter II

 
 

The terror…was then their own portion ~ Volume III, Chapter III

 
 

“I shall be sure to say three dull things as soon as ever I open my mouth, shan’t I?” ~ Volume III, Chapter VII

 
 

“Jane Fairfax!–Good God! You are not serious?” ~ Volume III, Chapter X

 
 

Mr. Perry…with a disengaged hour to give her father ~ Volume III, Chapter XIII

 
 

“my dearest, most beloved Emma–tell me at once” ~ Volume III, Chapter XIII

 
 

“She absolutely refused to allow me” ~ Volume III, Chapter XIV

 
 

“He did not know what was come to his master lately” ~ Volume III, Chapter XVI

 
 

There was no longer a want of subject ~ Volume III, Chapter XVIII

 
 

Charles Edmund Brock (5 February 1870 – 28 February 1938) was a widely published English line artist and book illustrator, who signed his work C. E. Brock. He was the eldest of four artist brothers, including Henry Matthew Brock, also an illustrator. He studied art briefly under sculptor Henry Wiles.

He received his first book commission at the age of 20 in 1890. He became very successful, and illustrated books for authors such as Jonathan Swift, William Thackeray, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and George Eliot. Brock also contributed pieces to several magazines such as The Quiver, The Strand, and Pearsons. He used the Cambridge college libraries for his “picture research.” Brock is best known for his line work, initially working in the tradition of Hugh Thomson, but he was also a skilled colourist.

He and his brothers maintained a Cambridge studio filled with various curios, antiques, furniture, and a costume collection. They owned a large collection of Regency-era costume prints and fashion plates, and had clothes specially made as examples for certain costumes.Using these, family members would model for each other.

Brock did not publish any more work after 1910.

The approach of C.E. Brock’s work varied with the sort of story he was illustrating. Some was refined and described as “sensitive to the delicate, teacup-and-saucer primness and feminine outlook of the early Victorian novelists,” while other work was “appreciative of the healthy, boisterous, thoroughly English characters” – soldiers, rustics, and “horsey types.” Other illustrations were grotesqueries drawn to amuse children looking at or reading storybooks.

Jane Austen’s Matchmaking Heroine

Illustrations by C.E. Brock

 
 

Emma, by Jane Austen, is a novel about youthful hubris and the perils of misconstrued romance. The novel was first published in December 1815. Before she began the novel, Austen wrote, “I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” In the very first sentence she introduces the title character as “Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich.” Emma, however, is also rather spoiled, headstrong, and self-satisfied; she greatly overestimates her own matchmaking abilities; she is blind to the dangers of meddling in other people’s lives; and her imagination and perceptions often lead her astray.

Emma Woodhouse is the first Austen heroine with no financial concerns, which, she declares to the naïve Miss Smith, is the reason that she has no inducement to marry. This is a great departure from Austen’s other novels, in which the quest for marriage and financial security are often important themes in the stories. Emma’s ample financial resources put her in a much more privileged position than the heroines of Austen’s earlier works, such as Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. Jane Fairfax’s prospects, in contrast, are bleak.

 
 

(Douglas McGrath, 1996)

 
 

Douglas McGrath “fell in love” with Jane Austen‘s 1815 novel Emma, while he was an undergraduate at Princeton University. He believed the book would make a great film, but it was not until a decade later that he was given a chance to work on the idea. After receiving an Academy Award nomination in 1995 for his work on Bullets Over Broadway (Woody Allen, 1994), McGrath decided to make the most of the moment and took his script idea for a film adaptation of Emma to Miramax Films. McGrath had initially wanted to write a modern version of the novel, set on the Upper East Side of New York City. Miramax’s co-chairman, Harvey Weinstein, liked the idea of a contemporary take on the novel. McGrath was unaware that Amy Heckerling‘s Clueless was already in production, until plans for Emma were well underway.

Although in general staying close to the plot of the book, the screenplay by Douglas McGrath enlivens the banter between the staid Mr. Knightley and the vivacious Emma, making the basis of their attraction more apparent.

Austen’s original novel deals with Emma’s false sense of class superiority, for which she is eventually chastised. In an essay from Jane Austen in Hollywood, Nora Nachumi writes that, due partly to Paltrow’s star status, Emma appears less humbled by the end of this film than she does in the novel.

 
 

(Diarmuid Lawrence, 1996)

 
 

This production of Emma stars Kate Beckinsale as the titular character, and also features Samantha Morton as Harriet Smith and Mark Strong as Mr. Knightley.  Previously, Andrew Davies was the screenwriter for the successful 1995 BBC TV serial Pride and Prejudice starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. Davies offered to adapt Emma for the BBC, but it had already commissioned Sandy Welch as screenwriter.

 
 

(Amy Heckerling, 1995)

 
 

This comedy film is loosely based on Jane Austen’s 1815 novel Emma. Heckerling later described Silverstone as having “that Marilyn Monroe thing” as a “pretty, sweet blonde who, in spite of being the American ideal, people still really like.” 

Under the Charm of Scheherazade

The mystery never ends, it cannot end. That´s why it is called a mystery, it cannot be known ever. It will never become knowledge, that´s why it is called a mystery; something in it is eternally elusive. And that´s the whole joy of life. The great splendor of life is that it keeps you eternally engaged, searching, exploring. Life is exploration, life is adventure.

The legendary Persian Queen Scheherazade is a gorgeous example of this wonderful, intelligent and creative mystery called life. Her amazing story featured in One Thousand and One Nights (هزارافسانه), is an inspiration to generations of story tellers, movies makers, musicians, painters and poets. It will remain so, forever and ever and ever.

Scheherazade (شهرزاد‎) is a female name meaning "of noble lineage" in old Persian, or "born in the city" in modern Persian.

 
 

Model wearing Schiaparelli’s asymmetrical evening dress at Schéhérazade club, Paris

 
 

Photo taken at Schéhérazade club by Roger Schall, 1940

 
 

Art Nouveau poster

 
 

Edmund Dulac

 
 

Virginia Frances Sterett

 
 

Umberto Brunelleschi

 
 

Erté

 
 

Léon Bakst

 
 

Vaslav Nijinsky and Ida Rubinstein in ballet adaptation of Sheherazade premiered on June 4, 1910, at the Opéra Garnier in Paris by the Ballets Russes. The choreography for the ballet was by Michel Fokine and the libretto was from Fokine and Léon Bakst, who also designed sets and costumes

 
 

Nijinsky

 
 

Nijinsky by Georges Lepape

 
 

Sleeve design for Rimsky Korsakov’s symphonic suite recorded by The Philadelphia Orchestra. Phillips

 
 

Nijinsky in the role of the negro slave in the ballet Sherezade by Rimski Korsakov, George Barbier

 
 

George Barbier

 
 

Paul Mak

 
 

John Austen

 
 

Alberto Vargas

 
 

José Segrelles

 
 

Sophie Anderson

 
 

Richard Corben

 
 

Franz Helbing

 
 

Edouard Frederic Wilhelm Richter

 
 

Elizabeth Taylor in disguise

 
 

Directed by Walter Reisch

 
 

J. Jones

 
 

Willy Pogany

 
 

René Magritte

A Room of Her Own

Specially dedicated to all the women…

 
 

The title of the essay A Room of One’s Own(1929) comes from Virginia Woolf‘s conception that, ‘a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction’. Woolf notes that women have been kept from writing because of their relative poverty, and financial freedom will bring women the freedom to write; “In the first place, to have a room of her own… was out of the question, unless her parents were exceptionally rich or very noble”. The title also refers to any author’s need for poetic license and the personal liberty to create art. The essay examines whether women were capable of producing, and in fact free to produce work of the quality of William Shakespeare, addressing the limitations that past and present women writers face.

 
 

Portrait of Virginia Woolf by her sister Vanessa Bell (née Stephen)

 
 

Woolf’s father, Sir Leslie Stephen, in line with the thinking of the era, believed that only the boys of the family should be sent to school. Because her father did not believe in investing in the education of his daughters, Woolf was left without the experience of formal schooling. In delivering the lectures outline in the essay, Woolf is speaking to women who have the opportunity to learn in a formal, communal setting. Woolf lets her audience know the importance of their education at the same time warning them of the precariousness of their position in society.
 
In the essay, Woolf constructs a critical and historical account of women writers thus far. Woolf examines the careers of several female authors, including Aphra Behn, Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea, and George Eliot. In addition to female authors, Woolf also discusses and draws inspiration from noted scholar and feminist Jane Ellen Harrison. Harrison is presented in the essay only by her initials separated by long dashes, and Woolf first introduces Harrison as “the famous scholar… J —- H—- herself”.
 
Alice Walker, to the subject of much criticism, demeaned Woolf’s essay for its exclusion of women of color, and women writers who do not have any means for obtaining the independence of a room of their own.