Someone needs to brush up on her Jane Austen

After reading Maureen Dowd's column this week, I had to wonder: Has she actually read "Pride and Prejudice"?

Topics: Broadsheet, Love and Sex,

I read Maureen Dowd’s column in the New York Times Sunday; I guess that was my first mistake. Beyond her politics, MoDo has some grating stylistic quirks that really get under my epidermis — her love of puns, her tendency to shoehorn cutesy analogies into her columns.

Case in point: “Mr. Darcy Comes Courting,” her latest, in which she compares Barack Obama (“clever, haughty, reserved and fastidious”) to Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” and that novel’s beloved heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, to America itself (“spirited, playful, democratic, financially strained, and caught up in certain prejudices”). An excerpt:

In this political version of “Pride and Prejudice,” the prejudice is racial, with only 31 percent of white voters telling The New York Times in a survey that they had a favorable opinion of Obama, compared with 83 percent of blacks.

And the prejudice is visceral: many Americans, especially blue collar, still feel uneasy about the Senate ‘s exotic shooting star, and he is surrounded by a miasma of ill-founded and mistaken premises.

So the novelistic tension of the 2008 race is this: Can Obama overcome his pride and Hyde Park hauteur and win America over?

It has been a while since I read Austen’s book, but this sounded to me like a bit of a stretch. So I sought the counsel of Salon’s own esteemed book critic Laura Miller, who was quick to respond:

“It is a stretch,” Miller wrote me by e-mail. “Darcy initially comes across as cold and stiff, not cool and charming, and he actually is a member of the landed aristocracy — though he hasn’t got a title, the name is Norman (D’Arcy), while Bennett is Anglo-Saxon, so his money is also ‘old.’ Obama doesn’t come from hereditary privilege, and Dowd is being a right-wing patsy to paint him that way, however archly. Racial prejudice is not the equivalent of someone making a bad first impression! It’s true that Darcy has to keep trying to prove himself to Elizabeth after he offends her, but that’s about the only similarity I can see.”

My prejudice? Someone was reading the CliffsNotes version.

Sarah Hepola is an editor at Salon.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>