The True Face of Fitzwilliam Darcy, and Other News


On the Shelf

Look away, look away!


  • Listen, before I break the bad news, I want to say something: we all love hunks. No one is saying that hunks are bad, or that you don’t deserve a hunk in your life, let alone your fantasies. It’s just … are you sitting down? … Mr. Darcy was probably not a hunk, if we’re being honest. I know, I know, you’ve been turning the pages of Pride and Prejudice imagining Colin Firth for years now—we all have—that guy’s cut from fucking marble. But two professors have generated “the first historically accurate portrait” of Mr. Darcy and—think about it—why would he be a hunk? He was a gentleman, not a laborer! Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura writes, “The ‘real’ Mr. Darcy would have been pale and pointy-chinned, and would have had a long nose on an oval, beardless face. His hair, strangely, would have been white. And he would have been slightly undernourished, with sloping shoulders—‘more ballet dancer than beefcake,’ according to one of the authors … A real-life Mr. Darcy in that era would have been a ‘far cry from muscular modern-day television representations’ portrayed by actors such as Mr. Firth, Elliot Cowan and Matthew Macfadyen, the study concluded.”

  • In Paris, an exhibition called “Shoah et Bande Dessinée” (“The Holocaust and Comics”) mounts a provocative case for drawings, graphic novels, and comic books as media through which to avoid Holocaust fatigue. Joshua Lambert writes, “What Shoah et Bande Dessinée can help us to appreciate is how important, and how powerful, it is for a topic that demands reverence to be treated in a medium that is allergic to it. Comics consistently, if not inevitably, stylize and simplify and exaggerate, and—no matter how many prizes are won, or how many dissertations are written about the medium’s vast artistic potential—they never let their audiences forget their roots in shoddy printing and cheap entertainment. One of the challenges to Holocaust memorialization is, and has always been, the ubiquity of easy, meaningless clichés … Comics can disarm such reactions precisely because they are so profoundly wrong for the job … This is a highly unnatural, profoundly deliberate way of communicating. Comics keep it weird, which gives them the power to stop us from feeling like we’ve already seen it all.”
  • Attempting to get his career in academia off the ground, Josh Roiland went so deep into debt that he found himself in Lewiston, Maine, selling his blood plasma for extra cash. “Driving to Lewiston to give plasma is, no doubt, a dramatic gesture,” he writes. “As my poverty-studies colleague chastised me: What alternatives did I explore before relying on some histrionic plan like driving for two hours to give plasma? Did I try to get a part-time job? Surely I could have found something in the summer to earn some side cash? I could have copyedited. I could have become a test scorer for ETS or Pearson. I could have hauled sugar beets during October harvest. (All are jobs that other academic friends have taken up to boost their income.) … On my third trip to Lewiston, I walked in on the clients captivated by the Olympic dressage competition. I signed in, took a seat, and joined them. There we were, dozens of us anxious for cash, watching fancy horses mounted by fancy riders tap dancing around an arena. The room was silent. We were rapt. The irony lost, or at least unspoken, among us; each distracted from the reality of why we were there.”
  • Now that we’ve turned a geopolitical corner and nothing is the same and up is down and left is right and the rule book has been tossed into the fire and its ashes are raining down on all of Earth day after day, Alex Preston wonders how novelists will respond: “Historical seizures have tended to elicit dramatic artistic responses—Romanticism as a response to the Industrial Revolution; Modernism giving voice to the waste lands of the First World War. What will be the Ulysses of the age of Trump, or the “Prelude,” or the Infinite Jest? … It seems strange, perhaps, to turn to that most nineteenth-century medium, the novel, as a means of comprehending this age of slippery truths, online hive-minds and globalized financial services. Yet there is still no better way to transcribe the quiddity of existence, to burrow deep inside the experience of others. Novels make us do something habitually that we only find in occasional glimpses in even the best nonfiction—to ask ourselves what we would do in similar circumstances, to feel our way into other worlds.”